Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson has been suspended for three games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, his second such punishment in three seasons.
The league announced the punishment Friday, putting Simpson on the sideline without pay until Sept. 22 when the Vikings begin practice for a Week 4 matchup with Atlanta.
He won't count against the 53-man active roster until then, creating an opportunity for Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith, both of whom spent last year on the practice squad as undrafted rookies, to survive the final cuts and make the team for now.
Simpson will sit out games against St. Louis, New England and New Orleans. Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings are the top two wide receivers, with Jarius Wright the only other player with NFL experience at the position.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner, asked recently about the possibility of losing Simpson, the team's best deep threat, dismissed any concern.
"You have to have a varied plan. Unfortunately, in this game, guys miss," Turner said.
Simpson travelled to NFL headquarters last week for an appeal hearing, but his effort ultimately had no effect on the ban. Simpson was arrested last November on suspicion of drunken driving, and in January he pleaded guilty to careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test while avoiding the DUI charge.
Simpson denied he'd been drinking to the state trooper who arrested him when his sports car was stalled in a freeway lane just outside of downtown Minneapolis. His attorney, David Valentini, has said Simpson would have passed had he taken a blood alcohol test that day.
But the league considers the past in assessing punishment, and Simpson previously was suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season following a felony drug conviction. That stemmed from a marijuana shipment that authorities found at his home in Kentucky while he played for Cincinnati in 2011. He was still on probation for that at the time of his arrest in Minnesota last fall.
The Vikings have seen enough good behaviour from Simpson off the field and glimpses of potential on it that they've signed him to three consecutive one-year contracts, at relative bargains because of his trouble. Only one of his eight career touchdown catches has been with the Vikings, but he established career highs last season with 726 receiving yards and an average of 15.1 yards per catch.